One of the most contentious debates during the 2008 Presidential campaign had to do with something most Americans seem to hate with a passion, namely earmark spending. This is the practice by members of Congress of making sure their pet projects are funded. Barack Obama specifically promised to veto any spending bill that contained earmarks in his first year as President. With the House of Representatives passing a $400 billion spending package last week that contained some 8,600 earmarks, it appears that this promise is about to be put to the test and The Associated Press is reporting that President Obama is going to sign the legislation, even though it contains said earmarks.
The administration’s top budget official, Peter Orszag, said Obama would sign the $410 billion spending bill despite a campaign pledge that he would reject tailored budget requests that let lawmakers send money to their home states. Orszag said Obama would move ahead and overlook the time-tested tradition that lets officials divert millions at a time to pet projects.
In reality, I am not surprised that the President is going to break his promise and sign the bill into law. I would have been very surprised if he tried to stand up to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and put a stop to their spending practices. What is more disturbing to me are the reasons White House officials are giving for this. I know George W. Bush was not a perfect President and had lots of faults, but to blame him for President Obama signing this earmark laden spending bill into law is a bit of a stretch, don’t you think?
Obama’s top hands assigned responsibility to their predecessors and President George W. Bush. By blaming Bush-era proposals for deficits, Obama wanted to set up his own budget, which he unveiled last week with a bold proposal to cut the deficit by half within his four-year term with the budget that would start Oct. 1.
“First, this is a $1.7 trillion deficit he inherited. Let’s be clear about that. We inherited this deficit and we inherited $4 trillion of new debt,” Emanuel said. “That is the facts.”
While that technically may be the truth, it doesn’t really have anything to do with Obama breaking his promise about earmarks. The facts are, as Emanuel seemed to want to stress, that Obama has a lot of political capital he could use if he really wanted to take a stand and keep his promise. The fact is, he doesn’t really want to do that and most likely never intended to crack down on earmarks in the first place. It just sounded good on the campaign trail. So what’s up, President Obama? Are you going to stick to your guns and veto earmark spending as you promised or are you going to capitulate to Congress and go along with everything they send to the White House for your signature? Just how much is your promise to the American people worth?